Episode 44: A Meeting with Michaelson
"Michaelson must be growing annoyed," said MacKiernan as the
Flying Cloud droned south above the waters of the Coral Sea. "He
keeps sending us to some backwater and we keep ending up in the thick of
things. Pirates, hijackers, secret Russian bases... this has not been an
ordinary mission." Left unmentioned was the havoc Miss Helga had wrought
among the crew.
"I've been wondering about this sequence of events," said Captain Everett.
"It seems too unlikely for chance."
The Exec raised his eyebrows. "You think Michaelson knew something was going
on and sent us there to find it?"
"It's possible," said Everett.
"But..." the Irishman fell silent. No one needed to be reminded that the
senior captain of the Cairns Royal Air Station was their avowed enemy, and
had tried to prosecute them for piracy after they'd captured their current
vessel from German arms smugglers.
"The man has a reputation for subtlety," mused Everett. "He could be playing
a very deep game. He could even be playing several games. I'd like to have
another look at that island where we spotted his yacht."
"That should be it up ahead," called Iverson from the helm.
"Right on schedule," said Everett. "We shall take this opportunity to deply
a ground party."
They took a position above the atoll and maintained station while Everett
rode the Transporter hoist down the beach. He returned looking thoughtful.
"Sir?" asked MacKiernan.
"Set a course for Cairns so we arrive after Michaelson's office is closed.
We'll need some time to prepare for our meeting with the good captain."
Jenkins checked the electrolyte levels, attached the battery leads, and
flipped the toggle. After a few moments, the vacuum tubes began to glow. He
tapped the microphone, listened to his headset, and nodded in satisfaction.
"I imagine one day they'll make these things more compact," he observed as
he closed the case, "but this should be adequate for our purposes. Of
course, we'll have to find some way to hide it in Michaelson's office."
Pierre seemed unperturned by the prospect. "This should not be a problem
as long as you can provide a suitable distraction."
"Leave that to me," said Everett.
A short time later the three men filed into Michaelson's presence. The
senior captain glanced up as they entered. His malice was palpable. "So,
Captain Everett," he observed in a voice dripping with sarcasm. "You've
been a busy man."
Everett met his gaze evenly. "We followed the letter of our orders."
"With a few additions," snapped Michaelson. "I don't recall anything about
investigating the coast en route to Darwin, or taking a jaunt into the
"The orders specified times and destinations," Everett observed. "They
were... peculiarly vague regarding other matters. And I wonder about some
of our encounters. You send us on what appears to be a meaningless
mission to an unimportant corner of Australia where nothing ever happens,
but along the way, we run into acts of piracy, murder, kidnapping, stolen
cargo, a mysterious airship that doesn't answer signals and flees when we
approach, and finally, an abandoned settlement of Russian scientists that
appears to have been attacked and plundered by some renegade German
conspiracy -- this last discovery, I might add, occurs as a consequence of
your specific orders to head in that direction. There's another mystery as
well. I couldn't help but notice your yacht that day in the practice area."
"The salvage crew was able to right her," growled Michaelson. "Your
recklessness has already gone on record."
"Has it?" asked Everett. "When the vessel should never have been there in
the first place? I took the liberty of going down to investigate the island
where you'd anchored, and found this." He tossed a squashed white stub onto
"And what is this?"
"A cigarette butt. A Geisling, to be precise. Common in Germany, but quite
rare in this part of the world. There were also a number of bootprints in a
German naval pattern, a matchbook printed with the advertisement for a
German opera house, and a scrap of parchment in an unfamiliar cipher."
Michaelson started forward, then sighed. "I was wondering where that had got
to. Heinrich must have dropped it."
"Korvettenkapitan Johan Heinrich, His Imperial Majesty's Secret
Now it was Everett's turn to raise an eyebrow. "You had dealings with
The senior captain drummed his fingers on the desk. "Understand," he said
at last, "that this information is strictly confidential. Breathe a word of
it outside this room and I'll see your heads roll. As you may know, our
`friends' in Germany are of two minds about the War..." he paused. Both men
had seen things in that terrible conflict that they'd prefer to forget.
"Most welcomed President Wilson's peace, but others feel that their nation
was betrayed, and seek to redress the balance.
"One of these nationalists groups is active in the Pacific. The Kaiser has
no resources here so his government has requested our help. I have no idea
what is at stake, but it appears the matter is so serious that Whitehall has
instructed us to cooperate. We can hardly do this openly -- particularly
when the Germans are still technically in a state of war with our French
allies -- so we have resorted to subterfuge. Hence my instructions to you."
It took Everett little effort to draw the obvious conclusion. "I assume
these renegade nationalists are the pirates."
"You are correct," said Michaelson. "They grow increasingly audacious. They
took a packet, the L-137, from under the nose of the Dutch governor in
Kupang. That must have been the vessel you encountered over the Timor Sea."
"What did you think," Everett asked his companions after they got back to
"It seemed superficially plausible," said Jenkins, "but it also seemed too
"I would agree," said Pierre. "His delivery was polished, as if it had been
rehearsed. A man in my profession must be sensitive to such things."
"Is the transmitter working?" Everett asked Jenkins.
The signalman passed him the headset. Through it he could hear the senior
captain puttering around his office.
"What if Michaelson finds the radio?" asked Iverson. "Will he trace it back
"That's unlikely, the way it was hidden," said Everett. "But even if he
does, the unit is of Russian manufacture. That should throw him off the
"Where did Jenkins get a Russian transmitter?"
"That was my contribution," said Pierre. "I had to steal something from the
police chief's office in Darwin, to make my intrusion look like a simple
burglary. I found this sitting on one of his shelves."
Next week: Bright Harbor Lights...